The concept of our immune system is so vague, so abstract – we can’t see it, touch it, or hear it. It’s hard for us to visualize, yet we’re constantly in search of the best ways to support, fortify and boost it.
Whether it’s the common cold, the flu or Coronavirus, these 6 key strategies help protect our wellness, year-round.
There’s the obvious: Mask up. Wash your hands like it’s your job. Use sanitizer liberally, both on your hands and on surfaces. Maintain proper social distance. And if you do get sick or have any symptoms at all – please, do your part and stay home.
Six more ways to fortify your immune system:
Sleep is essential for optimal immune function. Sleep deprivation, simply put, leaves us vulnerable – our odds of getting sick are as much as four times higher when we get less than six hours of sleep a night.
Gut health is everything. Our gut is filled with a vast community of microorganisms that directly influence our immune system. Factors that negatively affect our gut bacteria include antibiotics, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle. Factors that positively benefit our gut bacteria include fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, regular exercise and probiotics.
Probiotics are linked to a full spectrum of health benefits, particularly gut support, which plays a key role in immune system. Top sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir and kombucha. If you opt for probiotic supplements, look for live active cultures that are refrigerated, versus products that have potentially been sitting on shelves for months.
Vitamin D | 5000 IU. Maintaining optimal blood levels of vitamin D appears to help maintain our body’s defense against infection. Several studies have also shown that people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to test positive for Coronoavirus than those with normal levels.
We make D from sunlight, but it’s challenging to get enough through our diet. I typically recommend supplementing with 5000 IU vitamin D, especially for those who aren’t getting at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight on the regular.
Zinc, especially in the form of lozenges, may prevent viruses from multiplying or attaching to our throat and nose. A handful of trials have shown that taking 75 mg zinc lozenges daily translated to 1-3 days fewer symptoms for colds. But it also seems that while zinc may be an effective prevention or treatment strategy for some, it has no effect in others.
Vitamin C doesn’t prevent most of us from catching a cold but may shorten the duration by a few days. In ultra-endurance athletes, however, supplementing with vitamin C has been shown to significantly reduce the risk by as much as 50 percent.
There are no completed controlled trials of vitamin C in patients with Covid, though more than 30 studies are underway and reports are promising, with few safety concerns. I typically recommend 1,000 mg vitamin C in divided doses.
For more on nutrition + immunity, check out Molly’s article, 6 Strategies to Elevate Your Immune System.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.